After being steamrolled, 47-6, last Friday by a undefeated and state second-ranked Show Low football team, the Longhorns return to action today, Sept. 28, against a homestanding Sedona Red Rock crew that will be much less formidable than were the Cougars.
Although Sedona is 3-2, as is Payson, two of the triumphs were against Northern Arizona reservation schools where football is simply something to do until the basketball season tips off.
Sedona beat Tuba City 23-0 and Greyhills Academy 49-14.
Sedona also has a 22-14 victory over Camp Verde, a team the Longhorns walloped 41-21.
Sedona lost big-time to Winslow, 52-7 and Northwest Christian, 62-0.
The Scorpions, a Division V school, will never be confused with the perennial football juggernauts in the White Mountains, mostly because the team has struggled with participation.
In 2010, the team dressed only 11 to 13 players for varsity games and was forced to forfeit their homecoming game because it didn’t have enough players due to injuries suffered the previous week.
Sedona eventually finished 1-9.
Last year, the Scorpions improved to 4-6, but didn’t make the state playoffs due to a season-ending loss to Williams.
Also last season, Payson scored 22 third-quarter points in beating the Scorpions 42-7 on homecoming night.
However, most of the Payson players who had big nights vs. Sedona in that win have graduated or left Payson.
Gone are Clint Harper, Chance Randall, Aaron Barnes, Josh Oakley, Jake Hacker and Cody Crisp.
A pair of Longhorns — Tyus Sarnowski and Tyler Savage — that shined in that 2011 PHS win do return.
Sarnowski, however, was a reserve quarterback last season and tonight vs. Sedona will be playing wide receiver.
This year at Sedona, coach Rick Walsworth upgraded the school’s weight program and mandated a conditioning program, which he’s predicted will lead to success.
That remains to be seen.
Individually, seniors Keenan Crans and Zane Saxman buoy Sedona.
Crans is the team’s starting quarterback and also plays as a defensive back.
Saxman is a first team offensive tackle and defensive lineman.
The partial good news in the Payson camp this week is that quarterback Gunner Goodman, who has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, might return.
His status at midweek, however, remained up in the air, but he did practice.
In his absence, Miguel Mendoza has been pulling the trigger in the Horn offense and last week took a beating from a very physical Show Low defense.
If Goodman plays quarterback tonight, Mendoza will move back to his receiver position.
If Goodman can’t play, Mendoza will be taking snaps.
For Payson to win vs. Sedona, the team must crank up its ground game built around the running of R.J. Cox, Sam Boatman and Goodman or Mendoza.
First-year coach Jake Swartwood’s offense has thrived on big plays in the team’s victories and tonight the team might unleash an upscale passing game that includes new routes the team practiced during the past week.
Defensively, Swartwood has shown a 5-3 scheme, but there are others he might use including a hybrid 4-3 that former defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes relied on.
To shut down the Sedona double wing offense, which sometimes resembles “The Pistol” developed in 2004 by coach Chris Ault at the University of Nevada, defensive end Conner Anderson, linebacker Kyle Brown and linemen Jack Boatman, Mike Magliano and Jesus Apodaca must be at their best.
Game time tonight in Sedona is 7 p.m.